Luis Taint said goodbye to Portland, Ore., at Pacific Coast League midseason, 1964, destined to parlay his blazing 15-1 half-season in Triple-A baseball into a 16-year stand in the American League. Tiant yesterday, cigar in hand, one-year contract in pocket, Beaver jersey on torso, said hello again to Portland and the prospect of pitching in the minors -- for something exceeding $100,000.

After a last effort as reselling his services to the New York Yankees, with whom he was 8-9 in 1980 before becoming a free agent, El Tiante opted for his short-term stomping grounds of yesteryear, prepared to Beaver it out all summer if need be -- but aiming higher. Portland is a Pittsburgh Pirate affiliate, and in the bargain he'll be off now for Bradenton, Fla., and a once-over by the Bucs. And if the former Boston hero doesn't make it in the spring, remember that last time he dipped to the minors -- nine apprearances' worth in 1971 -- he bounced back as AL comeback player of the year in 1972, en route to adding 143 big-league victories to the 82 he had before his demotion.

"Don't put anything past Tiant even now at his age 40; he's liable to put it past you . . .

Dick Vermeil, accepting the Monday Morning Quarterback Club's "first annual" NFL coach-of-year award yesterday at Washington Touchdown Club, puts his success with the Philadelphia Eagles thus: "People keep crediting me for being a good motivator. I think I'm a better evaluator. You pick the people who will motivate you. "Wilfred Benitez has decided to go after Maurice Hope, instead of Tommy Hearns, with the scrubbing of the $1 million payday for the Hearns fight that would have been fought last night had the MAPS promotional fiasco not developed. No mystery why. Benitez knows the big, big paydays come for fighting Sugar Ray Leonard and sees possession of Hope's WBC junior middle-weight crown a nice selling point for another shot at Leonard; it wouldn't hurt in new negotiations with WBA welter champ Hearns, either . . .

Circle Jan. 6, 1982, basketball fans: Virginia-Notre Dame rematch -- right here in Capital Centre. Gene Corrigan arranged it before leaving as Virginia athletic director to become Irish ditto. It could become a habit, alternating years between the Landover arena and Rosemont (Ill.)'s Horizon . . .

Richard Schmidt, the Vanderbilt basketball coach, has dismissed sophomore point guard Jimmy Gray from his Commodore squad. Gray, one of two Vandy starters Schmidt suspended for two games last week, subsequently was quoted in a Louisville newspaper as accusing the coach of racism. Gray alleged that Schmidt wanted no more than three blacks playing at one time. No truth to that, Schmidt answers . . .

Anyway, freed hostage Bruce German had the lunch he requested with WMAL's Ken Beatrice on Thursday, maybe as the last to converse with Sportcall's proprietor before he took leave.